Tag Archives: current-events

A Map to Think About

Someday I may take up blogging more regularly again, but for now here is an interesting map. Bonus points to whoever can guess why I think it is important in the comments.  It is from a site with lots and lots of awesome maps: The Gulf/2000 Project that I came across looking for the information needed to make (poorly) my own version of this map. But they made it, so I don’t have to.

MidEast_Religion_and_Oil_sm

ISIS and the Caliphate

Warning: a non-expert, speculative discussion follows… although given the given the nature of prognostication, I have as good of a chance predicting the future as anyone.

The current turmoil in the middle-east, essentially a region wide war of different Muslim countries, entities and groups against each other, was, I suspect, inevitable. I think this would have been the case even if America had not invaded Iraq. While discussing that ISIS wants to build a caliphate, no one seems to be interested in the fact that the conquest of richer and weaker and non-Muslim neighbors is how the first caliphate was built. The problem now for ISIS is that if you look at the edges of the Islamic world, all of its neighbors are either dirt poor or much more powerful than an organization like ISIS.

From Wikipedia

There is pretty much nothing to loot in the Congo, and who in their right mind would invade China? Sure Europe is getting weaker and weaker, but it still wouldn’t be very easy to wreak up the place and steal millions of dollars of cash like ISIS just did in Mosul. But there is this convenient catch for barbarians like ISIS. All they need is an ‘apostate’ Muslim (the definition of which is fungible) to attack and they can claim legitimacy to their members. And, behold, there are numerous weak, fractured and unspeakably oil rich areas that ISIS can attack. Places so fractured that the army just leaves when ISIS attacks its second largest city. And conveniently, Iraq is run by ‘apostates’ and can therefore be pillaged. Iraq has oil, which is a tyrant’s dream. Every kingdom and petty tyrant in that region is fabulously wealthy based on a resource that they did not invent how to refine or use, did not mine, and do not have to exert any effort or risk to gain. They have this money because they were ruling their areas at the right moment. Now, ISIS simply wants in on the money and the power.

I will venture to predict events based on how I would write a novel from this point. I think that Europe and the US (though certainly hated and on their hit list) are back-burner hatreds. I suspect very much that ISIS has its eyes on the Saudis. I suspect that what ISIS wants is not really to conquer the Shi’a areas of Iraq, but rather to light the fuse to the Sunni-Shi’a bomb, and taking advantage of the chaos eat up Medina and Mecca. The Saudi’s main source of Islamic clout comes from controlling who gets to go to Mecca on the Hajj, and their main source of international clout is their oil. Without those, no one would care about them. If ISIS really wants a caliphate, they need Mecca. If the Shi’a in Saudi Arabia and the Shia’ in Iraq and Iran help explode the Sunni-Shi’a bomb, the Saudi’s would probably half-fall like Assad, and now Maliki, clinging to power in regions of their territory. They would be fighting Shi’a separatists and ISIS on opposite sides of their country. Now, if and when ISIS takes Mecca and Medina, while controlling some of the oil in Iraq, they will only be short a Caliph and in all other respects they could count as a Caliphate.

If I were an Intelligence official (or even someone who had/wanted the credentials of an expert on the region) I’d be looking out for which person(s) the leaders of ISIS could install as Caliph and control as a puppet. (Perhaps their current leaders (strange that in the news stories there never seems to be a named leader) could choose among themselves, but that would most likely lead to ISIS factions fighting each other.) I think what they need is someone who’s lineage would give them broader Sunni credibility. I havn’t the faintest idea of who that might be, but there must be some candidates out there. Once they have oil money, Mecca and a Caliph: that is when the Western world is in trouble.

There, that’s my fanciful prediction, now back to the salt mines of my dissertation.

Pandora’s Box

Communism

Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.

David Mamet Speaks the truth, truly a rarity. I have a standard thing I say about communists, but I am busy doing other things, so I will write it up later. For now, go read an article that really does speak the truth about power. He also says: ‘The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so.’

A Letter of Encouragement

I wasn’t going to write anything about the election, I much prefer writing about pumpkin pie and poetry. Last night was rough for half the country, just as 12 years ago was rough for the other half the country. In many ways last night was a disaster for limited government, the rule of law, and Freedom. Ronald Reagan correctly said that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. I even have a T-shirt that says that that I bought from the Romney campaign and a bumper sticker too now…. The point is, I think many, if not most, Americans who value freedom over security (or at least promises thereof, which I will address in a minute.) are frightened that this generation has allowed freedom to go extinct, that this election was the last and only chance of preserving liberty for our children. We look at England where people get in trouble for defending themselves, we think about $16,000,000,000,000 or $1.6 x 10^13 of debt with untold more trillions hidden by accounting gimmicks and know that sooner or later the piper will be paid. While the people who voted for Obama, the most profligate spender in all history, are responsible, all of us will suffer when the country defaults. And we don’t really see any future anymore that does not entail default, bankruptcy, inflation, economic disaster. At the same time the vile, tyrannical Obama administration is actively assaulting religious liberty and freedom of conscience, by forcing those who believe that abortion is murder to fund it. We see the handwriting, and we see that this administration will not stop there, it will try to force pastors and priests to marry homosexuals, and this and that, they are never content. This is how the world looks to us, the world is very dark, and the future appears very grim. ‘The sky grows darker yet, and the sea rises higher.’ And what, you all ask, is the comfort in that? Where is the encouragement? Well, here!

The world is very evil,
The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate;
The Judge that comes in mercy,
The Judge that comes with might,
To terminate the evil,
To diadem the right.

That was written in the 12th century by Bernard of Morlas. Americans are spoiled; we have forgotten that the world is hard, that God does not promise earthly victory, nor earthly reward. God does not promise us easy lives with easy choices. He expects us to make the right choices despite the combined efforts of the World, the Devil, and our own flesh, and while we always fail, we are always expected to keep trying. Does that mean we should give up on trying to revive Idea of America? Not at all! What that means is we have to realize that the fight is not just in the national election. In fact, the real fight, the one that counts, is for the culture. And this is where I point fingers, and lay blame.

Many people will blame Romney, the Hurricane, Christie, Bush…. The real blame lies on the shoulders of Christians who decided to stop influencing the culture. On those who kept mum when the government decided that infanticide should be legal as long as it happened before birth (or even worse, before complete birth). The blame lies on those who, under the guise of picking their battles to win some and lose some, surrendered every battle one by one.

These major battles were lost so very long ago, even my parents’ generation came mostly after the major battles were lost. So here is the encouragement, we have been fighting a losing cause for generations, and we will always be fighting a losing cause. The cultural war is not a blitzkrieg and though we all wanted it to be a Romney blowout last night, Obama won, and the trench warfare for the hearts, minds and souls, for the culture of this country, goes on. We suffered severe losses, but we are not conquered. We are not in any position to pick our battles; we have to fight them all. Each one of us does not have to fight every battle, but if we want to stem the moral dark age, and have the strength to survive the fiscal nightmare that is likely to come, we collectively have to be fighting every battle. We have to fight for limited government in the state houses, in the towns, in the counties. That is where the real battle is. We have to fight in schools, in universities, in the media, in Hollywood. Only when we start winning more of these will the federal government’s problems be fixable. And that is a tall order, but one in which this election is a temporary setback. Our ideological enemies are determined and scrappy; we have to be even more determined and even scrappier. Fight for every little inch of land. For us, surrounded on all sides, there is no such thing as tactical retreat there is only fighting or surrender.

So you have permission to be depressed today, tomorrow, pick up your ideas, your vocations, and as American citizens get back in the trenches. We may be drinking our own urine for water before the end of this, but the war is not lost.

“But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

“Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”

And as my sister used to say ‘Always remember and never forget’ that heaven on earth, that utopia, that is their ideal, their dream. Since Mankind itself is sinful and broken, we hope not for earthly victory, which is fleeting, but in Salvation, and the end of all things. By that I mean that even if we win this trench war, another will shortly follow, and another and another and another, and yet we struggle on and on because our hope is on Eternity, and our vocation is war. So I go back to writing my manuscript, because despite the fact that Obama is our president until 2016 I still have a PhD to obtain, I have a family to love, and very soon a son to raise. And with all that, working in my vocation, unabashedly believing in limited government and the rule of law, I will work to influence those around me, and the future, it is in the hands of the Lord. We get to vote again in 2014, meantime fight all the fights, and keep in mind that politics, like all earthly things, is fleeting like a flower (or weed) in a field.

(For a more secular pep talk, see Joel B. Pollak over at Breitbart Courage for the Long War Ahead)

Self Esteem

Talk about high self esteem!

If true, it explains why Obama always seems on the losing end of diplomacy….

When President Barack Obama stepped off the stage in Denver last week the 60 million Americans watching the debate against Mitt Romney already knew it had been a disaster for him.

But what nobody knew, until now, was that Obama believed he had actually won.

h/t PJ Media

On another thought, isn’t ‘Self Esteem’ just a fancy word for the deadly sin of Pride? (Which as they say, goeth before a fall…)

Civilization Vs. Chaos

Sorry if this is a little rusty. It has been a while due to the all-consuming graduate school. 🙂

Without further ado, I wanted to write about the world crisis, because I am such a salient and insightful commentator. The world is in crisis, so they say. Many people who are not willfully avoiding the issues are calling this a clash of civilizations. Definitely worth reading in this class is the article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Newsweek, Muslim Rage & The Last Gasp of Islamic Hate.

However, I an not convinced that clash of civilizations is the right term for today’s crisis. For instance between 264 BC to 146 BC (Dates from the History channel, not a great source, but I think they can manage that.) there was a true clash of civilizations. This between Carthage and Rome in the three Punic wars. Another real clash of civilizations was during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. One might also count the clash between America and Japan in WWII. However, these clashes of civilizations have something in common that today’s world does not. They have two recognizable opponents. Today, we have a clash of chaos and civilization.

Everyone who calls the murderous attacks ‘protests’ are on the side of chaos. Everyone who rationalizes the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the recent attacks on American diplomats, and even the 9/11 mass murders are aiding and abetting chaos. Of course there are the most direct agents of chaos, Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Iran, Syria… All this makes me think of a section of ‘The Ballad of the White Horse’ about the fall of Rome. (Ok, I admit, this whole post was all a cover for me to quote my favorite poetry at length.)

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

When the ends of the earth came marching in
To torch and cresset gleam.
And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
Like faces in a dream.

And men rode out of the eastern lands,
Broad river and burning plain;
Trees that are Titan flowers to see,
And tiger skies, striped horribly,
With tints of tropic rain.

Where Ind’s enamelled peaks arise
Around that inmost one,
Where ancient eagles on its brink,
Vast as archangels, gather and drink
The sacrament of the sun.

And men brake out of the northern lands,
Enormous lands alone,
Where a spell is laid upon life and lust
And the rain is changed to a silver dust
And the sea to a great green stone.

And a Shape that moveth murkily
In mirrors of ice and night,
Hath blanched with fear all beasts and birds,
As death and a shock of evil words
Blast a man’s hair with white.

And the cry of the palms and the purple moons,
Or the cry of the frost and foam,
Swept ever around an inmost place,
And the din of distant race on race
Cried and replied round Rome.

I think only a few commentators are talking about today’s events in these terms. But there is no civilization for America and her western (and eastern) allies to clash against, only chaos, and one or two billion hungry and angry people. With this mind, Alfred’s question in the ballad resonates with me:

“When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?”

Of course, here I can only think of the 9/11 Cross:

https://i2.wp.com/www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/World-Trade-Center-Cross.jpg

And the answer, from St. Mary (well… Chesterton) in part reads:

“The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

“The men of the East may search the scrolls
For sure fates and fame,
But the men that drink the blood of God
Go singing to their shame.

“The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.

“The wise men know all evil things
Under the twisted trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.

“But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

“Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”

Note: All quotes from The Ballad of the White Horse are copied from Project Gutenberg. Also, there is an analyst, a little nutty in a Libertarian sort of way, who proclaims half the world ‘Chaostan’ and since I read a number of his ‘Uncle Eric’ economy books, and this came up, I am sure it influenced my thinking.  Also, more importantly are Mark Styen America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It and David Goldman’s How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)

 

Paul Ryan

Everyone is talking about Paul Ryan today, which is fortunate since I have to write 10-20 pages of dry scientific writing today and tomorrow. So, since everyone else is writing about what this means, I dont have to, they did. All through the last month or so, everyone was touting the ‘boring white guy’ for VP. This led me down many rabbit holes of digressions such as ‘why does no one ever talk about charismatic white guys… Hitler? If so, has everyone forgotten all the charismatic not white guys responsible for mass murder?’ … But, Romney surprised all the boring white guys camp and selected the energetic, well spoken, and dare I say charismatic, Paul Ryan:

Mitt Romney did something that a lot of supposed wise men said he wouldn’t — pick a vice presidential candidate who is more charismatic than he. In choosing Paul Ryan, Romney took the risk he would be outshone, but he did America a favor. He selected the brightest young politician we have.

Talking about what this election means, and reminding everyone that the battle for liberty is never over:

Now that both sides are out in the open and fully aware of the danger to their preferred ways of life posed by the other camp, we are entering an era of struggle and division that, if anything, exceeds what we’ve lived through for the past twelve years. This isn’t the beginning of the end of our divisions. It’s only the end of the beginning.

And today I ordered my Romney – Ryan bumper sticker, and I look forward to putting it on my truck.

Aurora and Culpability

In the last few days I have mostly avoided any news about the shooting in Aurora at the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises (which is a fantastic movie). I do this every time some event like this occurs, for instance the shooting at Rep. Giffords and her audience. I find that it is an invariable rule of shocking news that the initial few days of reporting is all wrong. For instance, the initial report saying James Holmes was a Tea Party member was so wrong it bordered fraudulence, it was as if the ‘newsmen’ sifted through all the many, many men by that name, and picked the one whose political affiliations fit the story they wanted to tell: a story of a right-wing mass shooting. (On an interesting side note, has anyone looked to see if there were audience members who had concealed carry permits and were not carrying due to the theater’s rules?)

Anyway, Now that some time has passed I read some of the stories. I find it likely that now they have the right James Holmes, especially considering this J.H.’s apartment was booby trapped in an attempt to kill police entering… etc. What I came to find in all the writing about this, however, is that almost every article I read about the incident asks who to blame. Either that or they are assigning blame.

The usual suspects are blaming America’s liberty and the rights American citizens have to self-defense. These make a case, stupid as it is in light of the fact that no one was permitted to carry their self-defense weapons at this location, (a fact I suspect was not lost on the shooter) that the easy access to firearms is what makes Americans go on shooting rampages, as if crime and evil are relegated to those who touch firearms. History, however, and even recent history, makes this seem a strange argument.

Another set, these being people I usually agree with, seem to want to lay some blame on violent movies and video games. And this I find as reckless and wrong as blaming guns. While there are many movies that encourage their audience to participate in evil, rather than be horrified at it, still, the history of mankind if full of many evils, and many people so vile that they make this shooter almost benign.

So, I wanted to officially lay the blame where it actually belongs. Many people act as if this is a difficult, arcane sort of alchemy, mixing components of society, ‘pressures’ and so forth. These hucksters will even go so far as to defend the 9-11 terrorists/ mass murderers as if societal pressures forced them to behave a certain way. (See this related Klavan on the Culture)

Here is where the blame belongs:

(Picture from Breitbart News)

I know many enlightened people will think I am over simplistic, but everyone is responsible for their own sins. And so, the only one I am comfortable laying the blame on is the man who actually did the murder. I do not care to try to analyze what he was thinking, I have no desire to inspect the vile recesses of his soul for ‘explanations’ because I already know what I will find if I were to inspect anyone’s soul: evil. Evil can be restrained by society, it can be restrained by the fear of the law, and it can be restrained by the fear of God. However, some people  can only be restrained by the idea that their victims might shoot back. That is why I am unsurprised that this particular theater which self-righteously deprives its patrons of their right to be able to fight back, was chosen. I image every theater in the Colorado was packed for the midnight showing, but when criminals decide to try to kill a bunch of people, they almost invariably pick places where those people are required by law, to be unarmed.

So, I put the entire blame for murder, attempted murder, and all the evil committed by this man, all on him. Sin and Evil are lonely and self-absorbed things. Society does not encourage evil by being a free society where citizens have the right to buy whatever weapons they want or go to whatever movie they want. Society encourages evil when loud influential people demand that the blame for evil be shared around, and that we are supposed to try and understand the hypothetically tortured soul that did the evil rather than feel empathy for, and righteous anger on behalf of, the really tortured, murdered and terrorized victims. Society encourages evil when it is unwilling to call evil what it is, and  demands that we pay more notice and give more sympathy to the murderer than the murdered.

As always, Victor Davis Hanson is golden: The Demons of the Modern Rampage Killer

Cult-like Thinking

The fundamental characteristic of cult-like thinking is the belief that the members of the group have some amount and kind of secret knowledge: something that most people cannot see or refuse to recognize. Thus, the affected person goes around behaving as if everyone not in is dumb or unenlightened, and therefore not worthy of respect or consideration. It almost never occurs to such a person that the people they deign to talk to who disagree with them have given the topic plenty of critical thought and have come to a different conclusion. This type of thinking leads to some distinct characteristics, that I think are indicators of cult-like thinking. Some of the ones I can think of are:

1. Believing everyone else doesn’t see: Typical remarks would include ‘Wake up people!’ ‘Open your eyes!’ ‘How can everyone be so blind!’ and ‘Don’t you people see?!?!?!’ (Note the exclamation point after each… almost always these are exclamatory remarks.)

XKCD interlude:

2. Since the affected person is irrationally convinced that they have secret and ultimate knowledge, they do not feel the need to treat other opinions, ideas, or people with respect. Hence, when their belief is criticized or questioned, they usually resort to insults and ad hominem attacks.

3. Condescension: Since everyone not in doesn’t know, when affected people talk to others they speak as if they are addressing someone of low intelligence who can barely put two thoughts together.

4. Belief in many, many, conspiracy theories. I think this is caused by the desire to be more and more and more in the know. So, once a person has swallowed one conspiracy theory, the others go down with more and more ease.

The last point has a tragic societal side effect. Since there are indeed real, actual, and dangerous conspiracies, but nut jobs talking about Chem-trails or Illuminati make talking about real conspiratorial scandals very difficult. For example, the Operation Fast and Furious, where apparently the sitting President is now covering for the Attorney General of the United States who apparently is much more involved in a scheme to sell weapons to Mexican drug cartels than he claims. No one wants to sound like a crazy nut-jub ‘vaccines are more dangerous than the disease’ person. And yet, people do sometimes work in secret for their own ends regardless of the danger and cost to others. Hundreds of Mexicans have died by weapons that the Federal Government forced gun shops to sell to known gang members with no real plan on tracking the guns, except when they show up at crime scenes, as in when people had already died. But to suggest that President Obama might be involved in this would have been considered lunacy until today when the President basically admitted involvement since executive privilege only extends to the president, his correspondence, and state secrets.

So, how do we deal with people who think like cult members… I don’t know yet, so far I am usually a fan of ignoring them… anyone have better ideas?

(Book about the scandal, I haven’t read it though)